The context, of which art is created, clearly reflects its history and where it is from. Society’s values are further highlighted by the piece and give us insight into what life was like. This is interestingly interpreted by Juan Bautista de Espinosa’s exuberant baroque style painting, with a heavily catholic influence from Spain in the late 1500’s, as well as Margaret Olley’s contrasting and simplistic sensibility of the mid 20th century. Each artist’s aesthetic, although significantly different; equally allow us to understand a certain time and place Juan Bautista de Espinosa was born in 1590c. into a heavily Catholic family and country. Originally a gilder of altarpieces, Espinosa mastered the technique of still-life in the nearby Holland, where the style originated. He would later infuse this popular subject with the extravagant Baroque movement, which was already dominating the Spanish Empire. This marriage of realism and opulence is a clear representation in Juan’s 1624 work, “Still life of silver gilt salvers, a fluted cup, red clay bowls, salt cellars, flasks of water and wine and other objects”, which displays a precise array of gold and silverware for communion, and is a clever reference to the traditional style of painting. Espinosa’s routes in Dutch training, is clearly coherent throughout the work, from the tragically placed subject to the sheer detail of it. As well as staying true to the style, the painting is a clear ohmage to his country and his faith. Reflecting the baroque style of painting in the excessive use of Gold and ochre, it further emphasises the extravagance of the country and its faith at the time with the bold use of colours associated with Spanish royalty. This is all contrasted by the ominous and sombre tones of the background, which is a possible representation of how serious the subject of faith was at the time. The tones, as well as the gold display it is framing, continue the ornate theme of Spanish Catholicism and the interiors of its churches. Religion was a very important part of Spanish life in those days and Espinosa’s work doesn’t fall short of emphasising its importance. The Spanish Empire, in an effort to increase its size and spread Catholicism, carried out many conquests overseas. In Bautista’s work “Still-Life with Grapes, Flowers, and Shells, 1628” reflects the “new delights” that the “new world” had to offer”. The arrangement of shells and exotic birds and flowers, is a combination of old and new: with a traditional style of painting depicting exciting and unexplored goods. This could possibly be a metaphor for the rather old and powerful Spanish empire, exploring into the unknown. The subtle uses of bright bold colours of peach and chartreuse, as well as warm earth tones are a clear reflection of the South American tropics, along with their exotic flora and fauna, and humid climate. It also creates moods of excitement in anticipation of what else there is to explore. The lusciousness of the brush strokes and use of highlights give the painting a new life, in the both things harsh like the foliage of the plants and soft like plumage of the birds. The sombre background and traditional table ground the contrasting arrangement and forms the basic structure of the piece. It also competes with the display, just like Spain and its conquest against other nations. Margaret Olley is possibly one of Australia’s most famous still life painters. Born in 1923, Olley enjoyed art from an early age and even died with paint still on her fingers. She was trained at the East Sydney Technical College and she not only perfected the style of still life, but created her own distinctive style of painting, which has made a significant impression on Australian art today. Olley’s 1985 work is no exception and is entitled “Spanish Bottles and Chinese Screen”. The composition of the crisp and embellished oriental screen, and the small and delicate Mediterranean crockery, is a unique...
Bibliography: “Margaret Olley”, By Barry Pearce, 2012
“The Art of the Still Life: Still Life Painting in the Early Modern Period”, 1990, By Norbert Schneider
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